In my second year at university, I disintegrated. I wound up on the acute ward of the mental hosputal on the edge of my university town. An anti-intellectual atmosphere prevailed on that ward. One day after having mislaid my copy of Bleak House a nurse – a male nurse – typical ageing hippy with long greasy hair, an anti-perspirant allergy who obviously indulged in the recreational use of cannabis – entered the room and demanded to know what I was ‘up to’. He despised me and I assure you, dear reader, the feeling was entirely mutual. ‘I’ve lost my copy of Bleak House.’
‘What are you reading that for? No wonder you’ve got problems.’
‘So who do you think has stolen my book?’
‘Someone mentally ill, I expect.’
Bear in mind that I was an literature student at the time.
Later upon seeing me with a copy of I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Johanna Green, a New Zealand nurse otherwise known for her pragmatic good sense said, ‘Should you be reading this.’ In that hospital knowledge was not see as nourishment for mind and soul, it was seen as poison, and potentially lethal poison at that.